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Training the troops: Barnett solves quarterback quandry

Could the magic number for the Briarwood Academy Buccaneers this year be 32?


Briarwood Head Coach Jimmy Barnett gives players direction during practice.

That is exactly how many young athletes are adorning the red and black colors of the team this season, which is a tremendous increase from previous years.

"I am so excited about our big numbers in football," said Buccaneer second-year Head Coach Jimmy Barnett. "The opportunities are many when you have a large group of kids participating in the sport."

He added, "With this big number, you can try a lot of different things that involve a lot of players. This season we will experiment with a lot of young kids in key positions."

The Briarwood Buccaneers will open their 2004 gridiron season Friday night at home against Savannah's Memorial Day School. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.

In preparation for this season-opening game, the Bucs have been involved in several scrimmage games with some of the state's best teams. In action last Thursday afternoon, Aug. 12, in the John Hancock Classic in Sparta, the Buccaneers fell one touchdown short of victory against Monroe Academy.

In the 22-14 loss to Monroe, Coach Barnett's Buccaneers gave a valiant effort against a team that is trying to make a name for themselves in the state.


Steven Sparks waits for the ball to fall into his arms.

"I was not upset at all about our performance against Monroe Academy," Coach Barnett said. "Their coach had an alternative motive in this game and that was to win. However, we played everybody again that was dressed in a Briarwood uniform."

Briarwood went into the scrimmage with two squads -- a red one and a white one -- intermingled with starters.

"In our eight-point loss in the final scrimmage of the season, we made simple mistakes that prevented us from scoring at least three more touchdowns," Coach Barnett said. "In this game, we were stepping with our right foot, when we should have been stepping with our left foot."

He added, "I expect little mistakes from our freshmen and sophomores, but our juniors and seniors have got to come on. We were not as aggressive as I like to have been."

A big question mark for the Buccaneer offense has been somewhat answered as a result of this scrimmage. The job of quarterback has been narrowed down to two players, in which they will probably rotate out at times during each game.


Joseph Batrous watches his pass.

"Sophomores David Russell and Joseph Batrous have both showed a lot of leadership and promise at the quarterback position," Coach Barnett said. "All summer long, Russell and Batrous have been neck and neck at the quarterback spot. Right now, Russell will be our probable starter, simply because of his performance last week. However, both of these athletes will definitely see a lot of action."

In the scrimmage, Russell scored a 65-yard touchdown on a "beautiful option play,' Coach Barnett said.

"He executed the run to perfection," he said, "He also threw some good passes. Russell displayed a little speed in the quarterback role that we need."

Coach Barnett said he has been impressed by the way some of the new Buccaneers have stepped up to the plate.

"Will Quinn and Dustin Pilgrim are only two of our younger players that have displayed tremendous athletic ability," he said. "Will is very aggressive and Dustin has a lot of speed and quickness."

Coach Barnett is also looking for big things from Zack Henderson and Jason Dunham.

"Zack is a senior that hasn't played football in three years," he said. "But he goes full speed at everything he does, whether he successfully executes a play or misses his assignment."

Dunham will be a 6'2," 240-pound presence at nose guard.

"He is finding out his strength right now and is working hard on his technique at that position," Barnett said.

The 32-player Buccaneer roster for the 2004 season is made up of nine seniors, seven juniors, 10 sophomores and six freshmen.


Kyle Ewest makes a fingertips catch as Jacob Gay watches.

The senior class is made up of Steven Sparks, Kelsey Jones, Burt Goolsby, Jason Holley, Jeffrey Kent, B.J. Thompson, Al Dudley, Zack Henderson and Morgan Howard.

Juniors for Briarwood include Dustin Pilgrim, Tyler Wester, Blake Stitcher, Tim Johnson, Jason Dunham, Will Quinn and Micah Black.

The large sophomore class includes David Russell, Davis Griffin, Seth Williford, Joseph Batrous, Chris Gerlach, Rett Smith, Jacob Gay, Kyle Ewest, Charlie Hall and Chase Wilson.

Freshmen are Dave Joesbury, Hughlon Mays, Ethan Demore, John Spivey, Andrew Johnson and Carl Chapman.

"Other highlights for our offense during our recent scrimmages have been the play and performance of our tight ends. The key to our offensive attack this season will be our tight ends and Sparks and Ewest will be playing major roles for us," Barnett said.

Coach Barnett said his team is almost where they need to be for the opener.


Steven Sparks goes up to catch a pass.

He added, "All in all, on a grade level, our football team is at a "B" right now. We have come a long way in three and one-half weeks, and our players want to win badly."

Memorial Day School will be a big challenge for Briarwood this week. The school made the playoffs last season with other teams such as Tift Area, Valwood and Southwest Georgia.

"Memorial Day will come to our place this Friday with a group of good athletes and a lot of speed," Barnett said. "They knocked Briarwood out of the playoffs two years ago on big pass plays. They will definitely spread it out on us."

"Our kids are excited about opening night against Memorial Day. We are tired of practicing, and everyone is now ready for the real thing."


Burt Goolsby unleashes a pass as his teammates watch.


Burt Goolsby unleashes a pass as his teammates watch.

Web posted on Thursday, August 19, 2004

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